Letter to the Editor: Dina Fox
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Letter to the Editor: Dina Fox

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Letter to the editor,

Starting Sunday, the US, Israel, and Jewish communities around the world will mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.There will be week-long ceremonies with speeches pointing to the disaster that was and warning that could still be. President Biden will make a speech at a Holocaust memorial ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, an event sponsored by the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and attended by other top political leaders.

But left out of remembrances of the Holocaust are many of those who lived it. They will be spending the day in an all too familiar way—with inadequate care, food or shelter with penury and insecurity their constant companions.

Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany told Axios that 30% of Holocaust survivors in the US live in poverty. Think of it—almost one third.

I know what that means firsthand. My dearest friend, a 94-year-old survivor, a distinguished journalist who had run out of money before running out of life, passed away a few months ago. And it must have been a relief. He received a small pension from the Claims conference and had another small pension plus Social Security but that wasn’t nearly enough to provide him with the round-the-clock care that he needed or allow him to go to assisted living (minimum $8K a month in DC) or a nursing home ($16K and up). Without proper supervision, he kept falling, going to the hospital, coming home and falling again. In vain, I reached out to every Jewish organization that I could identify, trying to get enough funds for home care. One came up with 16 hours of covered care per week, another pitched in for a one-time authorization of 20 hours. But that was all. The answer was always the same: not enough funds. A Jewish rehab place outside of DC wouldn’t even return my calls. Some of my friend’s former colleagues and friends joined to raise enough to put him in assisted living for 6 months. By that time, assisted living wasn’t enough—the constant falls had taken their toll.  Jewish agencies could have kept him safe but didn’t.

How is that possible? We certainly aren’t a poor community so why are we treating our Holocaust survivors so poorly?

I suggested to whatever Jewish agency I was speaking to at the time, to try and have wealthy Jews sponsor individual survivors. How long would that commitment be? Instead of giving money for yet another building in their name, the donors could be making a real contribution to their own people and honoring their heritage.

It was like talking to the wind.

Maybe someone reading this letter will initiate such a program.

Maybe instead of speeches, there will be action. Then we can mark Holocaust Remembrance Day with clear consciences.

Dina Fox, Washington, D.C. 

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